by Geoff Roberts
The IFBB New York Pro holds the distinction of being the third most prestigious show in all of professional bodybuilding. Some may argue against this fact, however these disputes are really just an attempt to show respect to all the other pro shows, as opposed to a serious argument. This fact is not only true because of the many big names which show up in New York every year, but also due to the deep history that resides amongst the show. Once referred to as Night of Champions, the New York Pro has seen more legendary performances and unforgettable story lines than nearly every other show. This show has also been a launching pad into professional stardom for more than a few future hall of fame bodybuilders. This years rendition of the show is on shaky ground, but also has the potential to go down as one of the most memorable of its kind.
What shakes the ground beneath this show is the depth of the lineup. While debatable, it is quite possibly the weakest lineup we have ever seen at the New York Pro. However, what is not debatable is the fact that there are zero top Olympians in the show. This is a trend that has continued on from the 2017 Arnold Classic. Shockingly, there is not a single competitor in this years lineup who has placed top six at the Olympia. In fact, if my history is correct, no competitor in this show has even placed top eight at the Olympia. How does every single current professional bodybuilder who has placed in the top eight at the Olympia avoid the third biggest show in the world? What’s more, as mentioned earlier, at this years Arnold Classic (the second largest show in all of bodybuilding), there were no competitors in the lineup who had placed top seven at the big dance. This should make the idea of not allowing the top Olympians to automatically qualify for the following year sound not only like a good idea, but a glaringly obvious one at that. I feel it is important to mention that I am referring to the open class specifically, as the 212 class is not only pretty deep, but also extremely interesting. But I digress, on to this year’s New York Pro.
For my money, there are two potential mega stories which can unravel onstage in New York this year. The first has to do with the son of The Myth, Sergio Oliva Jr., the second has to do with the Brooklyn Beast, Akim Williams. Sergios story speaks for itself. There are few occurrences in sports which garner more excitement and intrigue than the son of a legend becoming a professional himself, in an attempt to reach the sport’s pinnacle the way his father did. Think about this: the latest installment of the legendary Rocky series is based on essentially the exact story we are seeing in real life with Sergio. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is a must for bodybuilding fans, because of this hyper unique situation we find Sergio in. The similarities between Sergio and the movies main character are downright eerie, I assure you. If Sergio can manage to win this show, he will immediately become the biggest story of 2017, a story that could only be eclipsed by Flex Wheeler looking spectacular at the 2017 Classic Physique Olympia.
Much like Sergio, Akim’s potential breakout story is not based solely on his bodybuilding ability, but is also related to an outside factor. In this case, that “outside” factor is Akims decision to make the pilgrimage to Oxygen gym in Kuwait, in order to train for this contest. Furthermore, we recently saw Brandon Curry take the Kuwait route and have it turn out very positive for him. The reason Brandons transformation is so significant here is because Brandon had virtually the same exact competitive issue that Akim battles, underwhelming condition. If Curry can not only improve his size and proportions in Kuwait, but also vanquish what has been his kryptonite for his entire career, there is no good reason to believe that Akim can not. This in mind, what does a bigger and finally in shape Akim look like onstage? Although we can’t say for sure, my guess is that he would steamroll this lineup with little to no opposition while becoming a major threat at shows like The Arnold Classic.
Sergio and Akim are certainly not the only threats to win the show, not by a long shot. When it comes down to it, Juan Morel is the best bodybuilder in this lineup, despite the fact that he has not been showing us his best look this year. He has won this show before, over a much deeper lineup no less. Juan near his best would be extremely difficult to defeat at this rendition of the New York Pro. The other guy we can not sleep on is John Delarosa, who I like to refer to as JDR. At his best, JDR would be the most balanced and complete guy in the lineup, which can do a lot to help him move towards that elusive winners circle. With all due respect to Juan Morel and John Delarosa, my hope is that one of the aforementioned story lines involving Sergio or Akim is what ultimately comes to pass. While those two guys are great, excitement and drama is what really makes a sport or competition deeply interesting.